Wednesday, June 19, 2013

(Belated) Lunch Week 19: Banh Mi

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch the next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it every week unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for 2 weeks ago: Banh Mi
Banh Mi is a French influenced Vietnamese sandwich with fresh ingredients that make it seem light. Perfect for the warm weather. It's stuffed with all sorts of vegetables and proteins.

Normally, I splurge and get foie gras terrine for my banh mi but it's pretty pricey. So I decided to make my own chicken liver pate instead. Well, actually my friends convinced me that it's quite easy and affordable. Below is 1 lb of chicken livers. You can use previously frozen ones as my friend suggested.
I cleaned them of nasty bits such as the extra fat, veins, and weird looking pieces like the ones below.
Then I soaked the livers in milk for about an hour so that it would release some of its extra blood and impurities. Rinse and pat dry.
Now it's time to cook the livers. In a pan with oil, saute the liver until just cooked but still pink inside. I checked by cutting a piece about 7 minutes in.
They'll end up looking brown/gray and pretty unappetizing. But don't fret! They will become something very tasty.
As the chicken livers cooled, I fried up some shallots in oil.
Until really browned and caramelized.
The only other ingredient I found strange in the recipe was the hard boiled eggs. I never knew there were eggs in pate. Not sure what it's for. Filler? Smoothness? Creaminess?
I threw everything into a food processor along with lots of rendered duck fat. You can use chicken or butter instead. I just had a lot of duck fat sitting in my refrigerator waiting to be used. You can press this through a fine sieve to make it really creamy and smooth but I wanted to keep the onion bits. And I was lazy.
Then cover and refrigerate until set. I let it chill overnight. It becomes something dense but creamy. The iron/metallic taste is pretty strong here. I wouldn't eat it alone on a cracker but smeared on a sandwich as a condiment would work just fine. I did, however, discover that the mineral taste disappeared over time (a few days). I froze the extra pate so we'll see how that turns out when I defrost it.
Along with the pate, I also wanted roasted pork in my sandwich. Here I'm marinating thinly sliced pork butt in a solution of vinegar, brown sugar, and shallots.
Then I broiled it in the oven until cooked through and browned.
I julienned and pickled some carrots and daikon radish. I pickled them separately as the orange from the carrot can seep into the white daikon.
And fresh cucumbers cut into spears. Also a bunch of cilantro (not pictured) would be needed.
And the last but really importantly ingredient of the banh mi, the bread. I use French baguette though traditionally Vietnamese places use a hybrid that adds rice flour into the mix making it more crusty and light.
Sliced in half, I spread the pate on one side and kewpie mayo with sriracha (hot sauce) on the other.
Then I placed the pork on the bottom topped with the pickled vegetables, the cucumber spear and lastly a good hand of cilanto (stems and leaves).
Close and it's ready to eat. Normally, this sandwich is best eaten the same day you prepare it. However, as life happens, I prepared this overnight. The bread becomes chewy which is not optimal but passable. If you have the time to prep this in the morning, I highly recommend that. Oh, and no need to refrigerate during the day. Eat at room temperature.
The pate came out really good. Much better than I had anticipated. As I mentioned, the mineral flavor disappeared over the days. The pork was pungent from the fish sauce, but sweet and tangy from the vinegar and sugar. The pickled vegetables were crunchy and fresh while the cilanto added an herbaceousness to the whole sandwich. Lastly, the bread which would have been better fresh but held up really nicely against all the ingredients. A good proportion of protein, to vegetable, to bread.

Recipe below for the chicken liver pate is courtesy of David Leibowitz

Chicken Liver Pâté
Makes about 2 cups (600g)
Adapted from The Book of Schmaltz by Michael Ruhlman

The jelly was something I added, because once I spread the pureed pâté mixture in my covered mold, I thought it would make a nice presentation. People get weird about things that are jellied, so it’s optional. But if you decide to make it, you can use a ruby port, like I did, or marsala, sherry, or even a sweet dessert wine, like sauternes, late harvest riesling or muscat.

If you don’t have chicken fat, or schmaltz, or duck fat, use melted butter for sautéeing the onions, cooking them until wilted. (They will not caramelize the same way as they will with chicken or duck fat.) And replace the melted chicken or duck fat used when pureeing the livers with softened butter.

For the pâté
3/4 cup (180g) melted chicken or duck fat
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 pound (450g) chicken livers
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 large hard-boiled eggs
2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon whiskey, port, or sherry wine
pinch cayenne powder

For the jelly
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons port wine (155g, total)
2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin granules
pinch of ground allspice

1. In a large skillet cook the onions with 1/4 cup of the chicken or duck fat, stirring frequently, until they are browned and beginning to caramelize. It will take 10 to 15 minutes. Once browned, scrape them onto a paper towel-lined plate and let them drain.

2. Add the chicken livers to the pan and season with the salt and pepper. Cook the livers, stirring often, until they are just-cooked through but still pink inside. Remove from heat.

3. In a food processor, pulse the hard-boiled eggs a few times, then add the cooked livers (scraping in any pan juices), vinegar, liquor, cayenne, the fried onions, and the remaining 1/2 cup melted chicken or duck fat, then puree until smooth. Taste, and adjust with salt and pepper.

(In the app, Michael Ruhlman suggests that if you want it very smooth, you can press the mixture through a wide mesh sieve. I didn’t do that as I didn’t want to lose any of those little caramelized bits of onion.)

4. Scrape the mixture into a pâté mold or decorative bowl, and chill a few hours, until firm.

5. To make the jelly, put the water and 2 tablespoons of the port in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let sit 5 minutes.

6. In a small pan, warm the 1/2 cup of the port with the sugar, allspice, then pour it over the softened gelatin, stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Let the mixture cool until it’s tepid, then pour it over the back of a spoon (to avoid creating a divot in the pâté), over the chilled pâté.

Serving: The pâté can be served with a shallot marmalade, or just sprinkled with sea salt on crackers or toast. A treat is a sandwich made with this liver spread and cream cheese, smeared between two slices of Jewish rye bread.

Storage: The pâté will keep three to four days in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for up to two months.

-For tips on using gelatin, check out my post: Tips on Using Gelatin.

-Duck fat is availabe from well-stocked grocers, gourmet food stores, and some butcher shops, as well as online at D’Artagnan and Amazon. You can also render your own duck fat.


Recipe below for the Vietnamese pork chops is courtesy of Bon Appetit

Vietnamese Pork Chops
Go light on the salt when seasoning these chops; the marinade is fairly salty, especially after it reduces.
RECIPE BY Alison Roman
PHOTOGRAPH BY Hirsheimer & Hamilton
JUNE 2013

1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 1-inch thick-cut bone-in pork chops (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Kosher salt
Lime halves (for serving)

Whisk shallot, brown sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and pepper in a shallow dish. Using a fork, pierce pork chops all over (to allow marinade to penetrate faster) and add to marinade in dish. Turn to coat. Cover and let pork chops marinate at room temperature, turning occasionally, 20 minutes.
Remove pork chops from marinade, scraping off excess (reserve marinade for sauce). Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly season pork chops with salt. Cook until browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Let pork chops rest 10 minutes before serving.
Meanwhile, bring marinade to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 4 minutes.
Serve pork chops with reduced marinade and lime halves.

DO AHEAD: Chops can be marinated 1 day ahead. Chill, turning bag occasionally.


  1. Fantastic!

    My hero! (sandwich pun)

  2. That sandwich looks RIDIC! As far as the pate goes...
    The eggs are definitely just filler - I gave up on putting them in. Also, if you add a bit more wine and/or some prunes to the pate before pureeing, that will take away some of the iron-y taste and add a really mellow sweetness.

    Can't wait to steal this sandwich recipe!!!


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